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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus),
Panamint Rattlesnake (Crotalus stephensi)

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Snakes Around Las Vegas, Wildlife Around Las Vegas
Speckled Rattlesnakes (Crotalus mitchellii)
Someone doesn't want to come out and play.

General Description: Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus) and Panamint Rattlesnake (Crotalus stephensi) are most easily recognized by their faded colors and the lack of bold markings on the sides of the face (no white eye stripes). Body marking on the front end are blotches on the back; those on the back end are tiger-stripes on the back and sides. The end of the tail is white with narrow black rings. Individual scales are light-colored with black speckling (the "speckles" on the Speckled Rattlesnake).

These snakes are venomous. Do not attempt to handle rattlesnakes; rather, enjoy your good luck of finding one from a distance (minimum 3 feet away) and leave them alone.

Family: Venomous Snakes (Viperidae). Formerly Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus and Crotalus mitchellii stephensi. Crotalus mitchellii is retained for a species that occurs on the southern end of Baja California.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckling on the scales.
Technical Description: Size medium (to 4 ft). Body thick and heavy. Head wide and triangular with a narrow neck. Dorsal color harmonizes with the habitat and ranges from nearly patternless light colors to broadly banded with rust and gray. Scales are rough and flecked with black and white. The sides of the head are gray and contrast with brownish on the top of the head. The tail is banded with black and white rings; the white rings are wider than the black rings, and the black rings tend to incompletely circle the tail.
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
"Coon tail" markings and rattles.

 

The two species (comparison photos below) around Las Vegas are recognized by features of the supraocular scale (scale above the eye) and by the nature of the little scales surrounding the rostral scale (the big scale on the tip of the nose).

Panamint Rattlesnakes (C. stephensi) have a pit on the supraocular scale and two small scales adjacent to the rostral scale, but these two do not surround the rostral scale.

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnakes (C. pyrrhus) have a crease on the supraocular scale and a band of four small scales adjacent to the rostral scale that separate the rostral and prenasal scales.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Crease and small scales (Southwestern; C. m. pyrrhus)

Diet: Primarily rodents. Larger individuals may take small rabbits; young may feed on lizards.

Habitat: Mojave Desert Scrub, Blackbrush, Sagebrush, and Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands (Upper Sonoran and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland life zones). Primarily found in rocky areas with outcrops and boulders.

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Faded pattern

Range: Southeastern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico from sea level to 8,000 ft in elevation. Both species occur in southern Nevada. The Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (C. pyrrhus), a lighter form, occurs in the central and eastern portions of Clark County (e.g., Lake Mead) from Lincoln County south and east into Mexico and Arizona; while the Panamint Rattlesnake (C. stephensi), a darker form, occurs in western Clark County (e.g., Red Rock Canyon NCA) and points west and north into California.

Breeding: Gives birth to 2-11 live young during mid-summer.

Similar Species: Other species of rattlesnake in southern Nevada tend to have more distinct markings on the back, less speckling, and distinct diagonal eye-lines, but definite identification may require counting scales on the snout (not recommended).

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnakes are good climbers.

Comments: Although rarely seen, these two species are the most common rattlesnakes around Las Vegas. I've only seen a handful in my years of hiking.

Rattlesnakes have infrared detectors in pits on the side of the face (between the nostril and eye) that allow them to see the "heat" of warm-blooded animals in total darkness. This makes them look like they have two nasal openings on each side of the face.

Comparison of the two species

Panamint Rattlesnake (Crotalus stephensi): prenasal contacts rostral, pitted supraocular.
Panamint Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii stephensi)

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus pyrrhus): prenasal separated from rostral by small scales, creased supraocular.
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus)

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake on pavement at night
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake racing for the hills
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Anterior end is blotched; posterior end is tiger-striped
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Heading for a tortoise burrow where it can hide.
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)
Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 171213

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